Traveling the world is always fun. Meeting and making new friends far away from home is even better. And the best is to go motoring with friends. That is exactly what happened to me last Sunday, when I was invited by Seattle’s Pudget Sound Mini Motoring Club to join a tour to Mt. Baker. The tour was initiated by the Vancouver Mini Cooper Club and with me and my German colleagues participating, it was a truly international event.
Here is how it all happened: I recently joined a new company here in Germany.
The agency I work for joined a larger network of agencies in August and so
a few colleagues (and new friends) and I got to travel to Seattle for a week
to visit our new headquarter. Before we all left, I got in touch with the
local MINI club, the Pudget Sound Mini Motoring
Club. Jeff, one of their members
quickly got back to me. Faster then you can say "MINI" he hooked me up with
the other members and invited us to join the Mt. Baker tour on the upcoming weekend.
So on Sunday, we got picked up at the hotel like VIPs by a whole fleet of MINIs. Every one of my four colleagues got a front seat thanks to Gina, Dave, Kelley, Adriana and Jeff. A very special thanks to Catalina for accepting the challenge to do her first drive to Seattle downtown and then letting me drive for the
rest of the day. Catalina is one of Kelley and Jeff’s two daughters. She is turning 16 soon and has a learners permit.
We tossed our bags in the various MINIs, took seats and off we went. As being used to the German Autobahn I needed a few minutes to get used to the traffic on the interstate. Not that there is much difference in how to drive. But the constancy of cars around you and the speed is what felt odd at the beginning. On a German Autobahn you rush by slower cars and trucks all the time and of course those wanting to go even faster pass by you. Heavy trucks are allowed
to go 50 mph on the German Autobahn, cars usually go at least around 85 mph.
As there are many stretches of Autobahn without a speed limit you go figure how
fast I’m used to drive (hint: even at 125 mph I still better watch my rearview). So an always changing traffic environment as well as braking and accelerating is what I’m used to.
But not going north on the I-5 this Sunday. As a long MINI snake we cruised at
around 60mph and got smiles along the way. After a few miles we pulled over
near Everett at the Ash Way meeting point and met about 10 more MINIs. The MINI
snake already became more of a python.
The next stop was at a parking lot near Bellingham to meet with the group from Canada and some more US MINIs. The python now became 36 MINIs long monster! Mike from the Pudget Sound Minis recommended a gas refill and announced that we will leave on time, take a right and follow the road until "we hit a mountain". Enough said. Quickly we leaked and refilled ourselves – and the MINIs.
Before we left, I swapped seats. After being Catalina’s chauffeur in a silver
MC I got to drive Kelley’s hyperblue MCS to the top of Mt. Baker. I felt right
at home. Kelley took the passenger
seat next to her daughter Catalina. I can only quote her: "Catalina did
drive all the way up to the top (and only scared me to death twice) and she was
so thrilled that she got to drive it." Fun for everyone you see.
The drive up to Mt. Baker was phenomenal. I wonder why American’s visit the Black Wood Forrest when they come to Germany, because the nature we passed through was even more beautiful. Tall and fat trees lined the winding roads. Small rivers gurgled on the sides. The smell of fir trees entered the car. As we got higher up the mountain, the trees disappeared more and more. Instead harsh rocks and small fields of snow appeared. The road got even more winding and more fun! A lot quicker than desired we reached the top of Mt. Baker.
Unfortunately the weather turned from some
sun with clouds to a misty fog within minutes after our arrival. Of course that didn’t stop us from having a good time. The tailgate party was decked
out with delicious sandwiches and fruits served by Kelley, a real BBQ, lots of friendly motorist and two GPs on show. The only thing missing was some
good tunes. Damn it, where again was that David Hasselhoff CD I brought? 😉
The way back to Seattle was equally pleasant. I took over the silver MC again and so we rolled relaxed towards the south, waving good-bye to the individual members leaving the convoy. We arrived perfectly on time at SeaTac international airport for our flight back to Germany. And
thanks to Jeff and his family organizing a little give away bag for each of us we were perfectly equipped to bridge the one hour delay while reading the MC2 magazine and chewing some sweets.
This has been the perfect example, how a little car can make the world a lot smaller. I can only recommend to everyone to check out if there
is a local MINI club when you travel and get in touch. It such a great experience!
More pictures of the event can be found on Flickr.